A Fire in the Minds of Men
On January 20, 2001, President George W. Bush, during his first inaugural address, faced the Obelisk known as the Washington Monument and twice referred to an angel that “rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm.” His reference was credited to Virginia statesman John Page, who wrote to Thomas Jefferson after the Declaration of Independence was signed, “We know the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong. Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm?” 1
What has come to become rather common parlance amongst the Bushes, was their cryptically apocalyptic phrases they intentionally chose to intersperse into their formal speeches when in office. Pres. George H.W. Bush oft appealed to the “new world order” to come about, as if he could will-it into being. Nearly a decade later, his son, George W. Bush, took on the mantle of both the office of the presidency and would-be prophet when he called upon the “angel in the whirlwind” to direct this storm.
But it was in 2005 when Pres. Bush used the phrase “a fire in the minds of men” which has seemingly come full circle. Perhaps the irony was lost on him when he chose to say it, or perhaps, it was never meant to be addressed to liberty-loving free peoples. Either way, he invoked a second time, as he did with the angel in the storm, for forces to drive our nation’s destiny.
“From all of you, I have asked patience in the hard task of securing America, which you have granted in good measure. Our country has accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill, and would be dishonorable to abandon. Yet because we have acted in the great liberating tradition of this nation, tens of millions have achieved their freedom. And as hope kindles hope, millions more will find it. By our efforts, we have lit a fire as well—a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.” 2 Pres. George W. Bush, 2nd Inaugural Address, Thursday, January 20, 2005
The phrase originally comes from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1872 book “The Possessed” in which he critiqued liberalism's skepticism, mockery of traditional values, and neglect of the family.3 The exact phrase, however, comes from a portion of the story about ruthless anarchists who not only literally set fire to a village but attribute this act as sparking the fire of revolution.4
Wasn’t that what the 9/11 terrorists were attempting to carry out – literally? Al Qaeda, under the leadership of Osama Bin Laden, wanted to spark the fire of jihadism in the minds of billions of Muslims around the world. In some degrees, they were successful, as Al Qaeda went on to spawn numerous terror offshoots like ISIS, Al Shabaab, Boko Haram, ISIS-K, and so forth.
However, as history has also borne out, Osama got more than he bargained for when he decided to light that fire. He got two decades of Western warfare waged in nearly every Islamic nation. He got, and the estimates vary, but presumably over 500K dead Muslims, nations wracked with famine, pestilence, poverty, civil war, and his own inglorious rendezvous with hell.
But he wasn’t the only loser.
Twenty years later, the United States has been on the receiving end of repeated bruisings and batterings for its repeated geopolitical, economic, financial, and even moral missteps. From man-caused actions like terrorist events, mass shootings, economic collapses, and botched military exits, to the natural-spawned happenings like disasters and cataclysms that have wreaked havoc not just on our nation, but around the world. It would seem that when George W. asked for the angel in the whirlwind to direct this storm, the angel decided to park that whirlwind on top of the United States for the last twenty years.
It would seem that the only fire in the mind of men these days, is lawlessness. It is the zeitgeist of our age. It is the spirit of Antichrist run amok. From the highest office in the land to the lowliest bureaucrat, lawlessness has become the true pandemic. But as watching believers, this should not catch us by surprise. The Bible has told us, repeatedly, that this is what the last days would be like.
Jesus warned us.
The prophets warned us.
The apostles warned us.
But we (the Church) are not to be fearful. We are not to lose our heads and panic like the rest of the world. We are called to be salt and light. To point those panicked people to Christ and say, “things are not falling apart, they are falling into place.” To point people to the Bible and show them, this was all predicted. To point people to the Blessed Hope and say, yes, things are bad, but Christ is returning, and soon.
As bad as things may appear in the present, remember, this is a façade. This is not reality. This is existence, as real as it may appear, is quickly fading away.
If a fire is to burn anew in your minds, let it be this. Our faith is not in this country. Our faith is not in one political party or another. Our faith is in the eternal God who spoke the universe into existence. It is He who directs the storms and controls the very fabric of reality.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone. May our God come and not keep silent; Fire devours before Him, And a storm is violently raging around Him. He summons the heavens above, And the earth, to judge His people: Psalm 50:1-4